Saturday, August 30, 2008

Political theatre of the absurd

In the US and Canada, political events have been taking place that simply make no sense. The plots--if plots there be--have departed utterly from Aristotelian notions of probability and necessity. Examples: the likely calling of an election in Canada this Fall, and John McCain's choice of running-mate.

I dealt yesterday with the soon-to-be-dropped writ here at home. It made no sense then, and it makes no sense now, even after a good sleep and having read and digested Jeffrey Simpson's analysis in today's Globe and Mail. "A cold calculation," he calls it, after a few paragraphs eviscerating The Stephen's claim that Parliament isn't working. Then he wanders into sexual fantasy:

When elected, the Harper government expected a vote within 18 to 24 months. They got most of their major promises from the last campaign done in that time frame. They even advanced by two or three years the second one-point cut in the GST. The Liberals let the budget pass, which left the Harper government in office but in a state of political semi-tumescence, which is where it's been since those first days. For only so long can a party preparing for the climax of an election keep denying itself, so that part of the explanation for the current haste is too many consummations already denied.

Political blueballs? This is what passes for analytical commentary by one of Canada's foremost pundits? Simpson goes on to make a case--an extraordinarily weak one--that the Liberal Green Shift package, which is admittedly complicated, expensive and resistant to being turned into soundbites, presents a winning electoral issue for Harper. All he needs is an election. But without an election it's just a political position without substance, and Harper is already governing effectively with a majority, thanks to his Liberal backbenchers.

Taking another brutal toke, Simpson goes on to speculate that Harper is worried that the Liberals might do badly in the scheduled September 8 by-elections, putting off even further that delayed climax he wants so desperately now. There have been extensive private polls, says Simpson--the Cons have spent record amounts of money on them--but just what are they revealing? Harper himself says that another minority government is the likely outcome of a Fall election. I believe him. Recent public polls have been saying exactly the same thing.

As Simpson points out, the Cons are facing a difficult economy in the near future, and
meanwhile they've emptied the public treasury. Coming into office with a $12 billion surplus, they are now (thanks largely to tax cuts) running a deficit. Somehow all this allegedly factors into the electoral calculus. But is the deficit going to disappear when an election is called? Or, rather, will it provide yet another juicy campaign issue for the opposition parties?

Against all this, not to mention the obvious breaking of the fixed-date promise and the current scandals, heavy-handedness and crises that have accumulated like sludge in a sewer-pipe, we are left with two suggestions. The first is that Harper, control freak that he is, wants to be the one who calls the election, rather than being forced into one by a non-confidence vote--as though the electorate will give a damn who called the election a day after the announcement. The second is that he wants one sooner rather than later because things will only get worse for the Conservatives further down the road as the economy deteriorates, But the latter are both unproven assertions, to put it mildly.

Meanwhile, Harper's Calgary-based mentor Tom Flanagan thinks it's the next battle in a war of attrition against the cash-poor Liberals, and lauds the current "Canada is Strong" line. Canada prefers a "strong, masculine, resolute" Conservative Party, he says: "Nobody
wants a sharing, caring, touchy-feely Conservative Party." He's serious. Ay-yi-yi.

A good part of political theatre is reading the critics. But in this case they're simply indicating their own confusion as the drama crazily unfolds. They don't have a clue. Neither do I.

On to the US. John McCain, old and with a history of cancer, chooses a running-mate, Sarah Palin, who is young, female and the governor of Alaska. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Well, lessee:
  • Palin has all of two years of gubernatorial experience. Before that, she was a small-town mayor, and not a very good one. Now she could be that ol' heartbeat away from the Presidency. Way to undercut Obama's alleged insufficient credentials in government and foreign policy. I'm going to enjoy the Biden-Palin debates, aren't you? Popcorn, anyone?

  • She supported Pat Buchanan for president in 1996. Yes, that Pat Buchanan.*

  • She wants creationism discussed in the classroom.

  • She's presently embroiled in a major scandal, allegedly firing Alaska's police chief for refusing to can a state trooper involved in a messy divorce with her sister. The report of a special prosecutor is due--in October!
Obama himself, as it turns out, could hardly have chosen a better McCain ticket-sharer. And given the nut-scented political air these days, it's only a matter of time before someone comes up with that as a serious theory.

Why Palin? The punditos are going wild. It's to trap the Democrats into complaining about her lack of experience. It's to trap the Democrats into being condescending and sexist, hence losing the women's vote. She'll pick up all those disaffected Clintonians. She'll shore up the so-con base. (It needed shoring up? Since when? The evangelicals were going to vote for Obama until she appeared?) She has the executive experience that Obama doesn't have (two years in a state with a total population of 670,000.) She's the very model of...something. Communicates well by all accounts, a hard-working, pull-herself-up-by-her-bootstraps, evangelical, MILFy, pistol-packin' mother of five.

Whew. Something there for nearly everyone. Well, not really. She'll get the folks that were going to vote Republican anyway. She'll appeal to the evangelical nutroots. But she'll turn off liberal Clintonocrats with her extremist anti-choice views and her Big Oil anti-environmentalism. And Americans, when prompted during the campaign, will fuss about her over-all lack of experience. Many of them like just plain folks with a clear message (e.g., Reagan), and they do tend to prefer image over substance and narrative over action, but Palin's candidacy presents such obvious difficulties and vulnerabilities that currently undecided voters cannot fail to notice. Count on the Obama campaign to put those issues up in lights.

Meanwhile, the undertone of the current commentary is one of bewilderment. Check out the punditry for yourselves. The political chatterati are trying to make sense of a decision that makes no sense. They're rationalizing and speculating, and those with Republican leanings are attempting to put a good spin on it, but the smart ones are calling it "risky" and "a gamble" and a "Hail Mary pass" and the like. They don't know what to make of it. Neither do I.

I'm sympathetic to those striving mightily to construct a rational framework for all of this. We all try, after all, to find meaning and sense in seemingly random, disconnected, incomprehensible events.
We use our powers of analysis to attempt to explain what's going on. But once in a while, do we not get the cold feeling that there's just no meaning to be found? And that possibility becomes especially salient, it seems to me, when the tales of the pundits become as surrealistic as their subject-matter.

H/t Canadian Cynic, Creative Revolution and Damian.

*UPDATE: (September 2) Commenter Bruce Rheinstein (and others in the blogosphere and the media) have largely let the air out of this one. Besides an AP news story and the claims of Pat Buchanan himself, there doesn't seem to be a lot to go on. A story of perhaps more interest at this point is the one about Palin's links to the secessionist Alaska Independence Party. (H/t Boris.)

UPDATE: (September 3) Or not. (H/t the indefatigable Bruce Rheinstein)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Election dates: unfixed or re-fixed?

I've been staying out of the federal election fixed-date discussion, because the four-year limit never really seized my imagination one way or the other. There are solid reasons both for and against fixed terms. But, as it now turns out, we didn't get them in any case.

Even in the absence of a no-confidence vote, The Stephen can simply advise the Governor-General and have her dissolve Parliament whenever he feels like it. So much for the law that observers thought would prevent a PM from calling elections on his own. It was all smoke and mirrors--a master illusionist conjuring up an apparition of democratic reform for open-mouthed gulls and sycophants, the latter now hastening to provide their Stalinoid rationalizations of this 180° volte-face.

Some folks are hanging their hopes on Michaëlle Jean refusing to dissolve Parliament. But she's not likely to do the Byng thing, even if the NDP and the Liberals were to make a coalition proposal. And after the disastrous 1972 quasi-coalition experiment, which nearly wiped out the NDP two years later, the latter wouldn't even be a theoretical possibility.

Anyway, as noted, it's not the law that intrigues me: it's the motive for "breaking" it that has me scratching my head.

On the face of it, an election call at this juncture simply defies all reason. As Canadian Cynic reminds us, The Stephen himself is predicting another minority government. Harper's mentor Tom Flanagan argues that it's a strategic move--that Harper wants to destroy the Liberal Party by attrition. But this makes little sense to me. A loss for the Liberals will inevitably trigger the ouster of the hapless Stéphane Dion, and Stéphane Dion has been the best friend a minority Conservative government leader could ever wish for. Harper's claim that Parliament has become "dysfunctional," furthermore, is not borne out by the plain facts: the last session of Parliament was actually a very productive one indeed.

How a Fall election can redound to Harper's credit, then, is a bit of a mystery. He has given Canadians
right across the political spectrum ample reasons to fear and loathe him, and these are fresh in our minds, too--listeriosis, public service purges, ideologically-driven culture cutbacks, at least the suspicion of illegal election fund activity, Cadmangate, deliberate disruption of parliamentary committees, and now unfixed election dates into the bargain. Even the National Post can't figure it out: I, for one, find the tone of this editorial quite telling.

An old friend from the NCR-Freenet days, however, raises an intriguing possibility in an email. He cheerfully admits that this may be venturing perhaps too deeply into tinfoil hat territory. But in his words:

Call me paranoid, but I've always felt that Stephen Harper's crew wants to
bring Canada and the U.S. as close together as possible. Now, having
enacted legislation that puts our elections on the same four-year cycle,
they seem to be arranging it so that the elections will occur in the same

Maybe this is deliberate, and maybe not. In any case it wouldn't hurt to
consider the scenarios. Would synchronized elections have any effect on
the national psyche? On campaign financing? On the framing of election
issues? On party strategies? On the implementation of political agendas?

All good questions. Comments?

H/t CC and Impolitical

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Borders, again: fun with FIDO

On May 30, 2008, I left Ottawa for a two-leg flight to Los Angeles through Montreal. I departed at 7:45am on Air Canada flight 8786. At 8:07, in-air, my cell phone rang. I had forgotten to turn it off.

The following text message had been sent to me:

Fido welcomes you to the U.S. Call 1 888 481-FIDO or 1514933346 to reach Fido Customer Service. Enjoy your stay! From: +5000 8:07 am 30-MAY-08

I continued to LA from Montreal. But when I returned home, my curiosity got the better of me. How did FIDO (my cellphone service provider) know that I was traveling to the US? I began an email correspondence with them.

The FIDO folks provided several scenarios, none of which applied to my case:

If a subscriber had gone to the United States prior to this trip and receives the welcome text message late and/or a second time. Please note that this is a known issue.

If a customer is close to the US border and is unintentionally roaming on the American network. In this situation, please note that the customer would receive the text message at a later period. It is also considered to be a known issue to be unintentionally roaming when travelling along Highway 401. This can happen if your handset automatically detects and/or connects to other networks.

Finally, this situation can also occur if a subscriber has taken the plane and flown over the United States at low altitude, without turning off his Fido handset.

The flight was a direct one between Ottawa and Montreal. I had not been to the US earlier in the year. The closest that I would have come to the US border is approximately 200K. The range of a microwave tower doesn't come anywhere close to that.
* In any case, the upshot of this correspondence was that FIDO "cannot investigate this matter any further."

Now, it seemed to me that the only possible explanation (other than a highly unlikely coincidence) is that Air Canada and FIDO share information.
I don't really have a problem with that, to be honest, but I was irritated by what appeared to me to be stonewalling. So, more out of curiosity than anything else, I launched a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada on June 19.

Early this month, I was contacted by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. I had, it appears, omitted a step in the procedure, namely to submit my complaint first of all to the Chief Privacy Officer at FIDO. Whoops. On August 15, I did that, enclosing all of the documentation.

Today I received a call from a FIDO "supervisor." He explored ever-more-farfetched scenarios, including the possibility that my cell signal "intermingled" with the plane's communications. After a maddening conversation (he was speculating out loud, and denying throughout that there was any information-sharing on FIDO's part), I asked if he would put all this in writing.

That's when things got interesting. He refused point-blank.

"We do not have the capacity to generate such a letter," he said, and I'm quoting directly. I asked if I would be getting a response from the Chief Privacy Officer. No, I was told, I would not. Not even an official acknowledgment of my inquiry? No, he said. It's not a privacy matter. There was no breach.

I'm not the tinfoil-hat type, but readers will forgive me, after a response like that,
for thinking that I might have stumbled onto something. I immediately got in touch with my contact at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. She told me to put it all in writing, and they will re-open the file and commence an investigation. Stay tuned, although these things can take up to a year. Meanwhile, if there are any techies out there who can come up with plausible scenarios other than information-sharing, or, conversely, who see the latter as the most likely one, I would appreciate hearing from them.

*Commenter Peter has a far better grasp of geography than I. I really need to get out more.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Two young men with too much time on their hands have been fined for "correcting" an historic sign at the Grand Canyon.

I place the word in quotations, and yet the two, who have been traveling the length and breadth of the US fixing spelling and punctuation errors on public signage, were right. Indeed, they left their task partially undone:

The fiberboard sign has yellow lettering with a black background. Deck [one of the two] wrote that they used a marker to cover an erroneous apostrophe, put the apostrophe in its proper place with white-out and added a comma.

The misspelled word "emense" was not fixed, Deck wrote, because "I was reluctant to disfigure the sign any further. ... Still, I think I shall be haunted by that perversity, emense, in my train-whistle-blighted dreams tonight."

The two scamps were fined $3,035 to cover the costs of repairing the sign, and are on a year's probation during which time they are banned from public parks and enjoined from making any more corrections. A reporter has delighted in pointing out that a sentence now appearing on a website owned by the obsessive twosome-- "Statement on the signage of our National Parks and public lands to come" has omitted a full stop.

At least one person of libertarian leanings has responded with no small indignation. The two even had to take down previous content on their website as part of their plea arrangement, leaving only the statement noted. The comments at the last link are interesting, with opinion about evenly divided. My fave:

It's probably a good thing you guys didn't get prison time for defacing a sign at a national park. An inmate would probably tattoo your forehead and misspell "@$%^%".

It's an interesting clash and amalgam of rule-systems. We have spelling and punctuation on one hand, the most superficial level of language here fetishized by two latter-day schoolmarms, and stern state enforcement of speling and punchuation on the other. Where to turn? Coments welcom.


I'm indebted to Mark Collins for a little trip down memory lane yesterday, with his reference to this article in the Washington Post. It's about a community on the Quebec-Vermont boundary, and the changes that have been occurring since the US has ramped up its security at the formerly longest undefended border in the world.

Derby Line (and other places with their own names that form part of that border community--Beebe, Rock Island, Stanstead) is not the only place affected. Fortress America has made golf in Ft. Fairfield, for example, a risky and sometimes technically illegal recreation.

This is not simply a matter of Homeland Security paranoia, though. Terrorism aside, our porous borders have been smugglers' heaven. Until recently, some of the customs offices on the back roads had office hours. If you arrived at the wrong time, you were expected to double back and find one that was open. Everything and everyone, from drugs on that golf course to illegal immigrants at Derby Line, have flowed through the boundary. For most, though, the priorities are a little different, as this resident of Ft. Fairfield makes clear:

When I step out of my door-yard, I am in Canada. If that road is closed I can't get out of there ... If you block the road off I can't get out and the fire and ambulance can't get in. It's very important I get down to the liquor store once in a while.

As it happens, I know the Derby Line area well. My grandparents lived in Stanstead, and I had relatives in Rock Island. The "old factory" mentioned in the Washington Post belonged to my uncle until he relocated the business (work clothing under the "Goodhue" label) to Sherbrooke in the early 1960s. Across the street was a border marker: my grandfather once had me stand at it, with one foot in the US and the other foot in Canada. A local library still has its check-out in Canada and its books in the US.

There was effectively one community here, and Customs traditionally operated with a light touch. As the map above indicates, if not very well, Highway 143 from the Laurentians takes a slight swing into the US at Beebe--just a few hundred feet at the most--and then connects to the 247. Traditionally, drivers to Stanstead from the Quebec side simply waved at the customs officer at the Beebe border crossing without stopping. There was an honour system in operation: cross-border shoppers were expected to stop, declare their purchases and pay the appropriate tax, and they did.

But this wasn't always the case. A new Canadian customs officer took over when I was a child, and quickly made himself unpopular. He insisted on charging duty on the most insignificant purchases, and was generally officious and unpleasant. Matters came to a head one evening when he refused to allow some ladies from the US side to bring their baked goods to a church supper on the Canadian side. As I recall, he didn't stay in his position too much longer after that.

Local citizens always look for commonsense solutions, and now they're grappling with a world that "changed
after 9/11." Town meetings are being held. Ideas for making things bearable are being discussed. Officialdom, for its part, is talking about fences and checkpoints.

"They're stirring up a little hate and discontent with that deal," said a woman who grew up in the area. "It's like putting up a barrier. We've all intermingled for years."

But Border Patrol chief Joseph Mellia, we are told, "prides himself on seeing the world in black and white." And for Derby Line residents, what he sees is what they get.

UPDATE: Commenter Brian Mc raises a disturbing case of US overreaction.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Jena Six update

There have been some developments in the case of the Jena Six that I wrote about last year.

The cracker judge, J.P. Mauffray Jr., has at long last been removed from the case, after making prejudicial statements about the accused before they had even been tried before him. But his buddy, District Attorney Reed Walters--the one who had the Black kids charged with conspiracy to commit murder for getting involved in a schoolyard brawl--is appealing the forced recusal.

So far Mychal Bell has been the only one of the Jena Six to be tried. He has served some time, is now on parole, and is going to school. A close relative of his, Baron Pikes, was recently killed by Louisiana cops who Tasered him nine times while in handcuffs--twice while he was unconscious. One cop was fired, but no charges have been laid in the death.

One of the other kids, Jesse Ray Beard, appears to have fallen on his feet, at least for now. Meanwhile, in an encouraging development, a good ol' boy has been sentenced to four months in jail for threatening last year's civil rights marchers. Even in backwoods magnolia country, it seems, the times may be a-changin'.

Political purges slammed

This past June I wrote about Brad Wall's transition team in Saskatchewan (see above), and its ugly political purge of the public service. In particular, I referred to Allan Walker, the veteran senior public employee who was added to the enemies list at the last moment.

In a stinging rebuke to Wall and his commissars, the Saskatchewan Public Service Commission has ordered that Walker receive full pay and benefits retroactive to his firing in January, and be offered the very next opening at his level without competition. Some of the other purged employees have settled; yet others are suing. One, Eric Green, has been reinstated in his old job.

The Public Service Commission didn't mince words.

"To arbitrarily end the careers of competent leaders without cause based on political direction sends a message to the remaining and prospective employees that a public service career is at best a matter of who you know more than what you know or what you are capable of accomplishing," said the commissioners. "When competent employees are dismissed without cause, there is no return on investment to the public, only increased cost and loss of competence and the creation of instability in the public service." [Full text of the decision here.]

The ham-fisted deputy premier, Ken Krawetz, had argued that the government should be able to dismiss employees without cause for political reasons. He was excoriated by commentator Murray Mandryk of the Saskatchewan Leader-Post in an article aptly entitled "It's time for some civil behaviour." Calling the government's actions "petty and foolish," Mandryk writes:

Krawetz [can't ] seem to grasp the simple concept that it's wrong, inefficient and stupid to fire nonpartisan career civil servants anyway. It creates an atmosphere of fear and loathing that is to his own detriment. He doesn't seem to understand there's inherent value in public servants functioning in an atmosphere in which they feel free to offer to politicians independent expertise without fear of the repercussions.

He doesn't get that a true professional career civil servant absolutely shouldn't be "sharing the political view" of the government of the day. True civil servants park their politics at home and don't bring them to the office.

Krawetz, Wall and their government don't get a lot of things, in fact. Including, we hope, re-elected.

H/t Larry Hubich

FOX News: angemessen und ausgeglichen

"Fair and balanced" FOX News is already infamous for its ceaseless race-baiting, homophobia and even occasional forays into anti-Semitism. The links between this "news" outfit and neo-Nazi fringe politics, however, is less well-known.

The connection is hardly surprising, however, given what else the network has been up to recently.

Lesser lights at FOX have called for the assassination of Barack Obama, referred to a friendly "dap" between the Obamas as a "terrorist fist jab," altered a Jewish reporter's photograph to caricature him in a manner reminiscent of Der Stuermer, used the racist slur "baby mama" to describe Michelle Obama, and permitted this kind of filth to be published on its "moderated" site.

Then there are the top dogs, like Bill O'Reilly: a sexual harasser and unabashed bigot who uses terms like "wetbacks" and throws other racial slurs around like confetti. Thank God he'll be dead, he said, before whites are no longer a majority in the US. O'Reilly was simply astounded to discover that Blacks know how to behave themselves in restaurants. And, in what is now standard conservative eliminationist rhetoric, he talked of a "lynching party" for Michelle Obama.

And Sean Hannity: notable for his vicious attack on a seven-year old girl; cosying up to Ann Coulter after her description of John Edwards as a "faggot;" and, more recently, the free ride he has given to the anti-Semitic
(1), racist(2) and eliminationist(3) Jerome Corsi, an old FOX favourite.

Then there's Hannity's Hal Turner connection.

Hal Turner is a neo-Nazi and a longtime friend of Sean Hannity. Turner, in fact, was a regular on Hannity's show, until he was finally cut off, no doubt as a career liability. "In my opinion," says Turner,

based on my first hand experience, I believe Sean Hannity is, in fact, a Hal Turner sort of guy. It seems to me that a big difference between Sean and me is that I am willing to say publicly what I think about savage Black criminals, diseased, uneducated illegal aliens and the grotesque cultural destruction wrought by satanic jews while Sean and many others keep quiet to protect their paychecks.

Given Hannity's other antics, I see no reason to disbelieve Turner's account.

But FOX has also made more direct connections with the neo-Nazi movement. In 2005, a FOX affiliate ran a puff-piece for the neo-Nazi website
Stormfront, currently run by white supremacist Don Black. It appears, in fact, that some FOX staffers were actually members of the hate site. This received some attention at the time, but not as much as one might expect--nothing in the regular media that I've been able to track down.

Was this a bizarre aberration? Nope. Just this month, FOX News aired an interview with Canadian neo-Nazi Paul Fromm on the human rights commission non-controversy. He was introduced as a "free speech activist," which is a bit like introducing Adolf Hitler as a "vegetarian." And so t
he ideological seepage continues, drop by drop. The trickle is becoming a flood. Even ten years ago, who could have imagined that this sort of thing would go mainstream?

The prescient Bertold Brecht, referring to Hitler, warned:

"Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again."

You bet. And, unlike the other one in the song, this revolution will be televised.
1"After he married TerRAHsa, didn't John Kerry begin practicing Judaism? He also has paternal gradparents that were Jewish. What religion is John Kerry?"
"RAGHEADS are Boy-Bumpers as clearly as they are Women-Haters -- it all goes together"
3"Too bad the plane didn't crash into the TV set of the NBC show "THE LEFT WING" -- especially when Martin Sheen was 'acting.'"

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sympathy for the devil

Craig Smith, co-admin of the Blogging Tories, is promoting a Canadian version of the Nazi Lebensborn program. (Commenter "Cool Blue" heartily approves.)

The organization "Lebensborn e. V." serves the SS leaders in the selection and adoption of qualified children. The organisation "Lebensborn e. V." is under my personal direction, is part of the race and settlement central bureau of the SS, and has the following obligations:

(1) aid for racially and biologically-hereditarily valuable families
(2) the accommodation of racially and biologically-hereditarily valuable mothers in appropriate homes, etc.
(3) care of the children of such families
(4) care of the mothers
It is the honourable duty of all leaders of the central bureau to become members of the organisation "Lebensborn e. V.". The application for admission must be filed prior to 23/9/1936.

Heinrich Himmler: Not Dead Enough.

H/t LuLu

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Slurring Black voters

Edward Michael George, reading a recent poll, tries to turn an apple into an orange:

So let me get this straight: it is newsworthy that 9% of the American voting public are uncomfortable voting for a black candidate, but not at all that 90% of black voters (that's all America's black voters by the way, not just the partisans) don't want to go with the white candidate?

Well, Edward, it's like this (and pay attention, Jay Currie). In the first instance, the poll indicated that 9% of the American electorate would be uncomfortable voting for any Black candidate. In the second, the Black sector of the electorate, which has voted heavily Democratic for decades (e.g., 84% for Clinton and 90% for Gore), are once again prepared to do so.

We know that race has been foregrounded in the current campaign as never before. But there are
obviously many reasons that people vote Democrat, including the party's comparatively better civil rights record. Edward's suggestion here, however, is that most Blacks vote solely on the basis of race. That's...a little racist, isn't it?

Sympathy for the devil

More ideological seepage.

Appearing on a neo-Nazi radio program aptly named The Political Cesspool, none other than the "libertarian" Dr. Walter Block, Senior Fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. An old Fraser Institute hand, as it happens.

And, why, here's Andrew Coulson - the Director of the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom. You remember the Cato Institute--it's been providing expert advice to none other than Robert Mugabe's rival, Morgan Tsvangirai.

This is just like Old Home Week, isn't it?

UPDATE: Damian reminds me that the venerable left-of-centre Kirkpatrick Sale was a Cesspool guest as well. And it didn't take much digging to turn up Thomas Naylor, either. Both appear to have been carried away by a radical decentralism, and are making common cause with Old South revanchists. Bizarre, to put it mildly. They must have lost their minds.

But these exceptions simply prove the rule. Check out the list for yourselves: it's a Who's Who of the American far Right.

H/t Damian

Even-handedness--RCMP style

Charges have finally been laid in the case of a racially-tinged brawl in Digby, N.S. A three-year veteran of the Halifax Regional Police has been charged with a summary offence (causing a disturbance) by the RCMP--and one of the two Black victims of the unprovoked attack by off-duty cops was charged as well. Causing a disturbance--and resisting a police officer.

For the RCMP, justice isn't merely blind, but evidently insane.

UPDATE: On the race relations front, there seems to be a bit of a history with the RCMP in Digby.

Israel's racism

No, the Palestinians of the West Bank are not the topic this time, with their separate licence-plates and roads. The Globe & Mail has a good article about the Bedouins today, an ancient people also suffering the ceaseless lash of Israeli apartheid.

Driven from their land in both the West Bank and Israel proper by settlers and the IDF, and continually threatened with violence, home demolition and forced relocation, the Bedouins are living in poverty and fear. In the West Bank they depend upon UN emergency supplies simply to stay alive.

Under Israel's first president, David Ben-Gurion, the Bedouins were expelled from the relatively fertile Western portion of the Negev desert and confined to an area known as the "enclosure zone." Later they were squeezed into a few special villages. A more detailed description of the subsequent and continuing oppression of the Bedouins may be found here.

Ali Abu Sheita recounted how his parents had been torn from their tribal land and transferred to a barren region where for years they had had to walk fifteen kilometers with their camels and donkeys just to bring water to the village. Yet in the Jewish village nearby, Abu Sheita continued, pipes delivered water directly to every sink. Halil al-Aseiby pointed to the high-voltage electric poles just outside the shack, emphasizing the regulation that forbids "unrecognized Bedouins" from connecting their homes to the power grid. "Even people who need to keep life-saving medicine refrigerated do not receive an exception," he said. Another man suddenly waved a demolition order that was pasted on his "illegal" shack on April 25. "Any day now," he said, "the bulldozers might arrive."

Anyone who still wants to play with the meaning of the word "apartheid" to give Israel a pass should think again. What's happening to the Bedouins is no different, no different whatsover, from this.

Presidential race

The very first articulate, bright, clean Black in the American mainstream chooses his running mate. Joe Biden. Good grief. There's only one course open to the Democratic handlers now. But how do you campaign with your lips sewn shut?

No comment from Faux News as yet on Obama's table manners, which might be surprisingly good.

And thus the American Presidential contest wambles and witters on, and the elephant in the room trumpets. Obama's mad flight to the centre has left only one issue in the foreground, the one that's been there all along, perhaps the only one that matters a damn to too many voters. More than 600,000 websites currently use the n-word in reference to Obama. And the list is growing.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

This Canada

After the issuance of a special bus pass, the subsequent revocation of the pass, an unsuccessful appeal to OC Transpo, an accessibility complaint to the Canadian Transportation Agency, and a vote of the Ottawa City Council's Transit Committee...

(draws breath) Ottawa woman suffering from an anxiety disorder has been permitted to bring her pet ferret
with her on the bus. Gyno, the ferret, calms her when she leaves the house: it has now been deemed a "service animal."

So long, "pro-lifers"

...and it hasn't been great to know you.

In 1975, you folks could rustle up a million signatures on a petition to Parliament.

Today you get 30,000 signatures, and have to leave them on the Governor-General's front steps. Your mouthpiece
Angelina Steenstra says the number of signatures shows how many people across the country support your position.

The population of Canada is currently estimated to be, as of this writing, 33,352,148.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Another day...

...another handful of racist digs.

Here's what has the goobers all upset now.

Who needs the Tories...

...when we've got Richard Stursberg?

Fall election: Mutual Assured Destruction

Harper and Dion are playing chicken.

An election in the Fall looks like a pretty safe bet. How are the parties standing in the polls?

Liberals, 33%. Tories, 32%. But that was five days ago. Yesterday it was 36% for the Tories, 30% for the Liberals. Different pollsters, of course. Same dismal news.

The Cons have been battered, it seems, since last February. Or, maybe not.

What do Canadians think about a Fall election?

Bring it on, 14%. Waste of time, 38%.

Or, if you prefer the other guys, 40% think an election would "clear the air," although the question doesn't mention the Fall. The 38% figure, those who don't want an election, remains the same.

Bottom line? Disaster for all parties. Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives are near majority territory, even with our ridiculous first-past-the-post system. Another minority win for the Cons will spell the end of Stéphane Dion's leadership. More disruption of Parliament can be safely predicted--Cons acting out because they still won't be permitted to implement their Maximum Program. A minority win for the Libs will be an effective defeat: their defining issue is the Green Shift, but they won't have the House votes to implement it. The NDP is mired at around 14%. The BQ is in irons.

There are each-way wins in politics. This is an each-way loss scenario. But the dumb macho teeny-boppers in their super-cool jalopies are accelerating...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kick Ass bloggers

Another meme. It's been sooooo long.

What delightful recognition from deBeauxOs, although I usually prefer friendly persuasion to attacking strange animals.

I hope I have this right. I'm supposed to link back don't believe it...


(Excuse me for a moment. Tears are welling up.)

Now there's nothing that says that we have to choose progressive bloggers, and I propose to be, uh, fair and balanced in my choice of those who get onto my list (and who, to the best of my knowledge, haven't been named by others, because there don't seem to be prizes for additional nominations):
  • The Flying Rodent, a Scottish blogger who has The Gift, and smites ass with a vengeance;
  • Antonia, from whose deadly boots no ass is safe;
  • Sir Francis, although I think he'd try to reason with it first;
  • Terrence and Jaws, who are trying their damndest to make a silk purse from an ass's ear; and
  • (wince) Small Dead Animals, although Kate doesn't kick--she shoots on sight.
OK, the instructions:
  • Choose 5 bloggers that you feel are “Kick Ass Bloggers.”
  • Let ‘em know in your post or via email, twitter or blog comments that they’ve received an award.
  • Share the love and link back to both the person who awarded you and back to MammaDawg.
  • Hop on back to the Kick Ass Blogger Club HQ to sign Mr. Linky (scroll all the way down) then pass it on!
Now, back to our regularly-scheduled programming.

Animal news from all over

Red in tooth and claw. So you think PETA and the ALF are bad news? Animals are starting to take matters into their own paws. Be very afraid. Yeah, you. And you.

Mother ship. Pod preferred.

Grin and bear it. The pro- and anti-ursines (no, not Ursulines) get down and dirty in France.

Sadism. Brought to you by Coca-Cola.

Chimney capers. Get the duck out of there!

Vegetarianism. Maybe it's time.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Come on, Globe & Mail--do your work!

I don't hold with the self-important few who imagine that blogging will someday replace the so-called "MSM"--but some days I have to wonder. The Globe & Mail's coverage of the desperate, vindictive "pro-life" campaign against Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin is risibly behind the curve.

For months now, the Morgentaler Order of Canada award has had the same effect on frenzied so-cons as a full moon. First it was "block that award." No dice. Then it was "rescind that award." Nothing doing. Then it was "send back your medals." Not much take-up on that: a whopping eight returns so far, three of them from beyond the grave. Then a tiny handful of demonstrators outside the G-G's house. A petition that nobody cares about. A hilarious "MASSIVE POLL" from a polling firm that sprang up overnight. And now it's "get that judge."

But the Globe is still taking too much on faith, as it were. They aren't asking the questions, they aren't paying attention to those who are, nor to the answers they're getting, and consequently the lifers are enjoying a free ride.
But not in the blogosphere: bloggers Bene Diction, Buckets, JJ and many others blew the gaff on the on-going lifer tantrum weeks ago, and they're continuing to eat those nutbars for breakfast.

Take, for example, the "leader" of the doomed charge of the life brigade, Charles "that's 'Dr.' to you" McVety. Blogger Bene Diction (with help from a bunch of other bloggers and some ethical Baptists) has been on the phony doctorate story for weeks--since June, in fact. But the Globe is still referring to McVety as "Dr."

Now we have this current last-ditch, spiteful attempt to have the Chief Justice removed from the bench, after all else has failed. McLachlin gave an excellent account of herself this past Saturday. But ol' "Doc" McVety is "unimpressed," says the Globe & Mail, deadpan. "We accused her of disregarding the constitution that she is bound to serve," he says. "We" is an alleged 42 organizations that signed a complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council
(follow the link to the text).

The number "42" is likely not a coincidence. Accustomed to fiction as they are, the "right-to-lifers" are obviously familiar with the Book of Revelation and the 42 weeks of tribulation foretold by John the Apostle. Or could the number have been drawn from the divinely-inspired Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? For there it is written that "42" is "the meaning of life, the universe, and everything." Credit where credit's due: judging from her post-title here, JJ has already twigged.

But End Times, it seems, are not yet upon us (is that the gnashing of televangelists' teeth that I hear?). Alas, "42" has shrunk, and shrunk again, and shrunk again, thanks to the sedulous work of blogger Buckets, one of the best damn researchers in the 'sphere. The number as of this writing stands at 28.

So there we have it: a whole slew of Potemkin village false-front organizations signing a complaint submitted by an evangelist with a fake doctorate. Come on, Globe. Is none of this worth a mention? A Stephen Harper favourite speaking in (forked) tongues? Or--a wicked thought--are the professional scribblers on Front Street not even aware of it?

UPDATE: (August 19) A little legal advice
from Christopher Bird for the authors and signatories of the McLachlin complaint. The overused blogword "smackdown" applies perfectly for once. Bet you won't read about this in the Globe either.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

And it's one, two, three...

...what are we fighting for? My sparring partner and friend Peter threw down the gauntlet over at
Daimnation thus:

I still have a hard time understanding who [Dr.Dawg] is fighting for most of the time. Indigenous peoples, sexual minorities and anyone in trouble with the police are constants, and we get occasional cameo appearances from "boutique" oppressed like the Roma and the obese underclass in America, but beyond that I'm usually at a loss. Certainly not the working class writ large or rural poor, who they increasingly tend to sniff at as yahoos. John Steinbeck's okies would be dismissed today as creationist fruitcakes in abusive and dysfunctional families and would probably [be] the subject of books by preppie east coast journalists entitled: "What's the Matter with the Joads?".

OK, I'll pick up that manky old glove. Peter's framed an oddly-phrased, provocative question, loaded almost to the point of collapse. I propose to ramble and be gratuitously incomplete in my answer. But first, more questions.

Criticism and Self-Criticism

I came to Jean Baudrillard's bold critique of "classical" leftism (there's an oxymoron for you) after I had begun writing up some notes for this article. From a critical perspective, I'd say we were largely in agreement.

On the subject of Watergate, Baudrillard made some still-pertinent observations:

The denunciation of scandal is always an homage to the law. And Watergate in particular succeeded in imposing the idea that Watergate
was a scandal--in this sense it was a prodigious operation of intoxication. A large dose of political morality reinjected on a world scale....[C]apital, immoral and without scruples, can only function behind a moral superstructure, and whoever revives this public morality (through indignation, denunciation, etc.) works spontaneously for the order of capital.


All that capital asks of us is to receive it as rational
or to combat it in the name of rationality, to receive it as moral or to combat it in the name of morality. Because these are the same, which can be thought of in another way: formerly one worked to dissimulate scandal--today one works to conceal that there is none.

Watergate is not a scandal, that is what must be said at all costs, because it is what everyone is busy concealing, this dissimulation masking a strengthening of morality, of a moral panic as one approaches the primitive (mise en) scène of capital: its instantaneous cruelty, its incomprehensible ferocity, its fundamental immorality--that is what is scandalous, unacceptable to the system of moral and economic equivalence that is the axiom of leftist thought, from the theories of the Enlightenment up to Communism. One imputes this thinking to the contract of capital, but it doesn't give a damn--it is a monstrous, unprincipled enterprise, nothing more. It is "enlightened" thought that seeks to control it by imposing rules on it. And all the recrimination that replaces revolutionary thought today comes back to incriminate capital for not following the rules of the game. "Power is unjust, its justice is a class justice, capital exploits us, etc., etc."--as if capital were linked by a contract to the society it rules. It is the Left that holds out the mirror of equivalence to capital hoping that it will comply, comply with this phantasmagoria of the social contract and fulfil its obligations to the whole of society (by the same token, no need for revolution: it suffices that capital accommodate itself to the rational formula of exchange).

Capital, in fact, was never linked by a contract to the society that it dominates. It is a sorcery of social relations, it is a challenge to society, and it must be responded to as such.

I feel scolded. :)

So, is there anything left of Leftism, then, other than an compulsive oppositional moralism that reinforces the very system we seek to replace? Has our praxis been reduced, after the collapse of the Soviet project, to a mere set of Pavlovian responses where cues like "America" and "corporate" set our mouths a-watering and our voices a-quivering with indignation? Do we share an ideology any longer? Do we need one? Who is "we," anyway?

I risk here merely repeating, in interrogative form, the caricatures beloved by our enemies, conservative and liberal alike. Take Terry Glavin, for example. (Please.) He inveighs ceaselessly against the groupuscules and their splintered craziness, as though they pose a hazard to anyone but themselves. Aha! he says, discovering yet another three-person cult, or a stupid sign carried amongst hundreds during a peace demonstration. Gotcha! he says, finding a couple of folks of bizarre and colourful provenance who are raving conspiracy-theorists and anti-Semites.

While he and others of his "muscular liberal" cast squeak with an indignation that rivals our own, most of us on the Left find ourselves bewildered. We don't do line politics any more. We don't join groups of ten and pretend to be a proletarian vanguard. That's kid stuff. It's boring and it's dated and it leads nowhere at all. (Not that we disengage entirely. A few of us authored a letter to New Socialist once, excoriating a commentator who urged us to make common cause with Islamic fundamentalists. We noted that the latter would be quick to turn their guns on us once they got through with Amerikkka. But I was doing this simply out of nostalgia, I'll freely admit, even if I insisted on removing the obligatory references to Lenin as the price of my signature.)

There is, however, method in Glavin's madness, as there is in mine. In the absence of foundations, teleology, blueprints and anything resembling an ideological road map, we wander about asking What Is To Be Done? and Who Whom? and What Up? (a pamphlet I'm presently working on). We know our enemies, or think we do, but we're not nearly so good at knowing our friends.

Some who identify with the Left want to head back down the road a spell, to the comforting old land of universal (read: European) values. If you can force your way through the intensely sleep-inducing and incoherent Euston "Manifesto," you'll get the flavour. Ahistorical, oblivious to material conditions, power relations and everyday political realities, it is an intensely moral document. In its paragraphs straw men do cartwheels before being hunted down by proper Eustonians armed with torches. The latter decry "cultural relativism" without knowing what it is. They worship the United States, claiming to be critical but never articulating a critique of any depth or coherence. But they also outline positions and stances that any Leftist could rightly claim as his or her own: an alternative version of globalization, for example, concern about the environment, human rights.

Indeed, this mish-mash of liberal apologetics is mirrored by our own mish-mash of socialist apologetics, although we are neither pretentious nor confident enough these days to produce a manifesto. We know what the goal is, kind of, but what are we doing to achieve it?

Let's admit it: the way forward is anything but clear. Even the word "forward" seems oddly dated now. Do we have anything left in our arsenal except self-deceptive "resistance" and critique?

Left at the post

Here's a liberal critique of the (post-)Left. It's worth a read, if only to encounter a full-blown political pathology in all of its purulent glory, although the large quantities of mouldy straw are giving me hay fever:

Post-left thought is an exercise in ressentiment unhinged from politics in the Aristotelian sense of politike, or the 'art of the common life.' These are its key elements.

1. Inverted Exceptionalism. Take the old 'exceptionalist' idea and flip it. America is unique among nations – just not uniquely good, that's all. The horrid US, with its crude consumer culture, unparalleled racism, and war-mongering politicians, is to blame for everything.

2. Post-Zionism. Ditto the above for Israel. One is the tool of the other in the US-Israel relationship, though it's not clear which is which. For Walt and Mearsheimer, Israel manipulates the US. For Chomsky, it's the reverse. In any event, Israel's right to exist is put in question (at best).

3. Third Worldism. The wretched of the earth ('multitudes,' whatever) are not just unlucky but morally superior to the earth's beneficiaries. Empowered by powerlessness to take the place of the proletariat in conventional Marxist doxology, the Third World Other can do no wrong. It's all 'resistance' whatever it is, up to and including terrorism. In this salvation myth, any two-bit despot – from Hugo Chavez to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hasan Nasrallah, even Osama bin Laden – can be seen to represent a salutary rebuke to American Capital and The West. So the millenarian imagination persists, after 'the end of history'.

4. Cultural Revolution. It's Manichean also. Because of #1 and #2, a complete transformation of consciousness is needed to wipe away all the micro-corruptions of US-led capitalism, and replace these with more salutary (revolutionary) habits of mind (to be discovered thanks in part to #3). Eventually, everything 'bourgeois', 'white' and 'male' will have to go. For now it can all be 'deconstructed'. Stir in to this 'methodology' heavy doses of Sixties-style antinomianism and Seventies-style New Ageism, and you have a heady cocktail: the mind slips its moorings.

5. Totalitarian Ideology. Ah, but moorings are so very reassuring when one finds oneself adrift! In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt outlined the closed-world world-view of the totalizing mind and its self-serving auto-validating procedures. She was talking then about Stalinism and Nazism, but it works for the post-left too (if that sounds like a harsh comparison, see #6 below). For inside the cramped and airless theoretical space of the post-left one finds that (a) every question receives an exhaustive total explanation, situating the smallest detail of an argument within a vast theodicy with no outside and little room for ambiguity or surprise. Nothing escapes and no light gets in, while (b) such explanations are independent of and resistant to experience. The post-left's is an entirely 'a priori' structure of thought. And this inclusive, arbitrary narrative without a referent is also (c) ultra-consistent. Why not, when you're making it up as you go along? Not only does everything fit that gets in, and nothing gets in that doesn't fit, but the results are always the same: the same demons, the same victims. And finally (d) we find the ascription of collective guilt to 'enemies'. The condemned in the post-left scheme of things will be judged not according to what they do or say or think but what they are. The post-left, in short, offers its followers a tidy picture of a messy world, suitable for lazy and credulous minds.

6. Islamism. With #1-5, the nascent post-left prepared the way for the embrace of radical Islamism after 9/11 as a form of 'resistance', indigenous to the Third World (#3), aimed at a guilty US (#1) and Israel (#2), striking a blow for 'difference' (#4), that simply had to be good in some way (#5). And it was this final element, I suggest, that catalyzed the other ingredients to produce the post-left proper.

In fact, following Baudrillard, I venture to observe that this is a critique of something that doesn't exist, a simulated critique, therefore, and one that feeds upon itself. One could cut the self-righteous moralizing here with a knife, if the knife were sharp enough.

Where does one start to counter this nonsense? The old "mosquito in a nudist camp" image comes to mind. The US is to blame for everything? Israel's right to exist is put in question at best? The "Third World Other" can do no wrong?
Sixties-style antinomianism and Seventies-style New Ageism? [E]very question receives an exhaustive total explanation? [E]mbrace of radical Islamism? And, somehow, on top of all that, ultra-consistent. Good grief. Who, us?

Quick, Eustonians! Lend me a torch! Where on earth does the author spend his time these days, other than in the foul rag-and-bone shop of an evidently hermetically-sealed mind? I can't remember when I last saw such a staggeringly silly pastiche of stereotypes and clichés, none of which remotely applies to any leftist I know. Even where the author draws close to a point here and there, he is overtaken, indeed bowled over, by his own hyperbole.

And what do I find saddest in this dreary assortment of slanders? Precisely this: that at a time when we on the Left have abandoned grand narratives and are questioning everything, including our own classical presuppositions and analyses, people like this author, with an almost incandescent smugness, aren't listening or don't care. Instead, they look for the old reassuring caricatures, throwing in Islamism to allow them to define us not only as wrong but also as the enemy--and then they accuse us of being "Manichean?" The sheer effrontery takes my breath away.

Just a suggestion: ignore the handful of self-caricaturing nostalgists still producing cultish newspapers (supplemented these days with websites) and doggedly pushing their line politics. No one I know hangs out with them. They number in the dozens. They are no more relevant than the shape-shifting lizard conspiracy people. There's more to the grand Leftist carnival than a few clowns. Talk to us.

Who are "we" and what are "we" up to?

We're not always sure who "we" are.

We want an alternative future. An inconceivably radical democracy, practised every day by ordinary people, informal, matter-of-fact. A transformation of social relations. A new environmentalism: not, "our relationship with the environment," but, "the environment." Gender, class and race in the dustbin of our varied histories. New carnivals. Peace.

We don't have a clue how to build it. But we refuse to accept that we live at the end of history. For now, we're talking: about making a new history, one in the future, not in the past. And we're the only ones who are.


Uh-uh. I'm not falling into that trap. Reader comments welcome.